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Bethany Vierra is appealing Saudi Arabia’s ruling over custody of her daughter

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An American mother who lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter after a Saudi Arabian court deemed her too Western to raise a child is racing to appeal the kingdom’s decision.

In July, Washington state native Bethany Vierra lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter, Zaina, in a legal battle against the family of her ex-husband, Ghassan al-Haidari, in Saudi Arabia.

Vierra’s parents, in Wenatchee, Washington, told CNN on Saturday that their daughter is racing against the clock to file an appeal on Sunday before the window closes.

“Bethany won’t give up. Because that’s her daughter,” Myron Vierra told CNN. “And it makes perfect sense that she won’t give up. We also realize that she may lose her life doing this, or we may never see her again.”

Vierra, a 32-year-old yoga teacher who now lives in Riyadh, moved to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to teach at a women’s university. While there she met al-Haidari, and they married in 2013.

Read more: A US citizen lost a bitter custody battle with her Saudi ex-husband over their 4-year-old daughter, exposing the harsh realities of the kingdom’s legal system

She divorced al-Haidari in 2017, and launched a custody battle over their daughter thereafter.

In a ruling made in July, a judge denied Vierra custody of her daughter because she is “new to Islam, is a foreigner in this country, and continues to definitively embrace the customs and traditions of her upbringing.”

“We must avoid exposing (Zaina) to these customs and traditions, especially at this early age,” the judge said in the ruling.

Vierra has had custody of Zaina during the appeal process, but Myron Vierra said there is a warrant out for their daughter’s arrest after she missed a child visitation with her ex-husband.

Her parents also said Vierra has been banned from leaving Saudi Arabia for 10 years.

“She wants to have the rights to go and come. She used to have that right,” Myron Vierra said.

If Vierra loses custody, Zaina will be given to her Saudi grandmother, after the judge ruled, “It is in men’s nature not to stay at home and not to honor/fulfill parental role themselves.”

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